Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Magic Plays

Other than Midsummer, which of Shakespeare's plays have some element of the magical in them? The Tempest, of course. As You Like It has the goddess Hymen showing up at the end, correct? And then there's Macbeth's witches. Hamlet and Julius Caesar's ghosts. The more I think about it, the more there are!

What about The Winter's Tale? I bring it up because recently I mentioned something about "Hermione pretending to be a statue" and somebody wrote back "I'm glad you're with me on the whole pretending thing, you don't want to know how many arguments I've had."

Really? Were we ever expected to believe that this is a statue come back to life? I never thought of it as anything other than a trick of Paulina's.

Who Could You Delete?

Sir Laurence Olivier famously left Rosencrantz and Guildenstern out of his Hamlet. So, play director for a minute. Who else appears to be a major character that you think you could get away with cutting? You are allowed to give that character's lines to other characters, as necessary, but you can't invent new characters to compensate. No merging to create a new and unique character (so no blending of Tybalt/Paris/Prince into a single entity ala Sealed With A Kiss).

A Shakespeare TV Series?

That certainly caught my attention, as I'm sure it did yours. I think, though, that the project is really better described as a series of made-for-tv movies?

Patrick Stewart, David Suchet and David Morrissey are among the stars confirmed for a new TV production of Richard II.

The season, which will take a fresh look at the bard’s life and works, will also include adaptations of his history plays Henry IV Parts I and II and Henry V, set in the medieval period and filmed on locations around the UK and mainland Europe. St David's Cathedral and Pembroke Castle, in West Wales were used to film many of the scenes.

The screening of the films is linked to the 2012 Cultural Olympiad, which is billed as the largest cultural celebration in the history of the modern Olympics and Paralympics.


So, 4 movies. I'm unsure how that translates into a series, but we shall see.

Characters of Action?

Here's a question. Who among Shakespeare's characters do you think *says* the least, but is still most crucial to the play? Hamlet, as we know, never shuts up. I'm looking for his opposite. Somebody who manages to say very little but still accomplish great things.

The Prince from Romeo and Juliet would be an example, although only technically -- he shows up to say "Look if there's any more violence in the streets somebody's going to be executed," and then later, when there's violence on the streets, he shows up to banish Romeo. Both important plot points. Technically he wraps the play up but I don't count that so much among the "action" bits.

I say "technically" because he's really a minor character who only shows up just to make these points. It's not like he's got much stage time.

Compare Cordelia, who disappears after her big opening scene for awhile, and then comes back strong at the end. But I don't know how her line count would compare with some others.

Ophelia certainly doesn't get to say much - but can we really count her in this list? Is she ever anything more than someone else's pawn?

I'm not sure if I'm getting across my premise. Trying to drum up some conversation, it's been quite here recently.

Iago's Jealousy

This is going to sound like a homework question, but you all know that it's been a long time since I was in high school :).

Othello is typically described as a story of jealousy. When there's even the slightest hint that his wife has been unfaithful, noble Othello is reduced to a snarling, violent animal who sees her death as the only possible outcome.

But what about Iago's jealousy of Cassio? Doesn't the whole play revolve around something that Cassio has, that Iago wants? It's not just the promotion, is it? Cassio has Othello's attention. When Othello needs something, he turns to Cassio. Iago wants to be in that position. I would say that Cassio has Othello's love, but I'm not sure how accurate that is -- Othello catches Cassio brawling at the bar and demotes him just as quickly. He doesn't seem to lose too much sleep over it.

How are the two different? How are they the same? Discuss.

This Week's Most Popular Unanswered Questions

According to Google, the following are the most popularly asked questions that still remain unanswered. Who wants to be first with some answers?

Most of these don't seem especially difficult, I just think that patience is required to formulate an answer. After all, doesn't Romeo spend most of the play describing Juliet's beauty? That's a lot of text to cite :)

Thanks to everybody who's been providing the answers!!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Missing Scenes

Its late on a Friday so I don't expect this post to get much traffic, but we shall see :).

The post about Iago's convincing of Roderigo to kill Cassio got me thinking -- what scenes does Shakespeare *not* give us, that you wish he did? Imagine Shakespeare was alive today and we got a sort of "director's cut" of your favorite play, including deleted scenes. What scenes are on your wish list?

The Iago / Roderigo example is a simple one (because its inclusion doesn't really do much for the plot). Hamlet's loaded with them -- the initial confrontation between Hamlet and Ophelia (during his feigned madness), Ophelia's death as Gertrude watches...

What else?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bob Dylan’s Shakespeare Songs (Guest Post)

Today is Bob Dylan’s seventieth birthday. To celebrate, Bardfilm and Shakespeare Geek have compiled a list of his Shakespeare-related songs. It’s not just the ubiquitous “Shakespeare, he’s in the alley / With his pointed shoes and his bells” from “Stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again,” you know!

Bob Dylan’s Shakespeare Songs

Won't You Come See Me, Queen Mab?

The Times, They Are A-Changin': O Cursed Spite, That Ever I was Born to Put Them Right

Rainy Day Women #12 (Goneril) and 35 (Regan)

A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall, For The Rain it Raineth Every Day

Something's Happening, but You Don't Know What it is, do you, King Lear?

Fool Wind

It Ain't Me, Ophelia

Come in, Gloucester Said, I'll Give You Shelter from the Storm

Yea! Heavy and a Bottle of Sack

Oh, Sister (Sung by Angelo to Isabella)

I Ain't Gonna Work on Oliver's Farm No More

Cordelia, Cordelia

Blowin' in the Windy Side of Care

Stuck Inside of Ephesus with the Syracuse Blues Again

. . . and, of course, there’s Bob Dylan singing the plot of Measure for Measure, which you really have to see (and hear) to believe.

Happy birthday, Bob!

Our thanks for this guest post to kj, the author of Bardfilm. Bardfilm is a blog that comments on films, plays, and other matters related to Shakespeare.

Monday, May 23, 2011

So What's Up With Shakespeare Podcasts?

Some of my most potentially productive work time is during the commute. I've got a good hour a day where I'm going to be listening to my ipod *anyway*, so I might as well make use of it. Typically I'll follow a variety of podcasts, and occasionally an audio book.

I've never been much for Shakespeare via audio. But, that can change.

So, this is an open discussion - who is putting out audio Shakespeare content? Tell me. If you've got your own show, this is your opportunity to plug it.

I'll tell you what I'm looking for. I don't want to listen to audio versions of the plays. I don't have that level of concentration while driving. Likewise, i don't want to listen to a show where people do nothing but talk about their own personal opinions of Shakespeare - that's far more likely to bore me in the other direction. The ideal content for me would be a heavy amount of Shakespeare, condensed for presentation, if that makes sense. I don't need two hours' traffic of my MP3 player - how about doing selected scenes? Or encapsulating info on a play that maybe I'm not as familiar with, so that I can come up to speed? If somebody said "Here's a series of podcasts where we spend 1 hour per play" I would almost certainly pick through it and grab the plays I'm least familiar with. But while I may find "Here's a podcast on nothing but Hamlet" interesting, it wouldn't be for me -- for something like that I need to be able to read and skim, because I know that there's an infinite amount to talk about and I want to decide for myself where the interesting bits are.

So, who's got one?

Arguing Infinite Monkeys with Geeks

I bookmarked this conversation over on reddit too late to join in the fun, but I thought that my Shakespeare Geek readers might get a serious kick out of what happens when you put the problem in front of geeks of the more traditional sense.

I can't really hold my own with the kind of mathematical experience they've got over there, but the way I've always imagined it is that "infinite" and "all" are, for the purposes of an abstract problem such as this, basically interchangeable. If you have a problem set of X possibilities, and then you say that you're generating an infinite number of variations on X, then by definition one of them will be X.

Any attempt to discuss how long this would take, or the odds that it could ever happen, or comparison to atoms in the universe, seems to miss the point entirely.

The closest I've seen to an argument that makes me curious is the idea that by saying "monkey" you are not necessarily saying "a true random number generator." Therefore you could argue that even with an infinite number of monkeys, your distribution does not follow a normal random distribution, and thus you can't do predictions based on that curve.

A Plot Hole in Othello?

Over on Shakespeare Answers, somebody asked Why Iago asks Roderigo to kill Cassio. In writing up my answer, I noticed something that strikes me as an odd gap, almost like Shakespeare did it on purpose.

Check out the end of Act 4, Scene 2:

Why, by making him uncapable of Othello's place;
knocking out his brains.

And that you would have me to do?
Ay, if you dare do yourself a profit and a right.
He sups to-night with a harlotry, and thither will I
go to him: he knows not yet of his horrorable
fortune. If you will watch his going thence, which
I will fashion to fall out between twelve and one,
you may take him at your pleasure: I will be near
to second your attempt, and he shall fall between
us. Come, stand not amazed at it, but go along with
me; I will show you such a necessity in his death
that you shall think yourself bound to put it on
him. It is now high suppertime, and the night grows
to waste: about it.

I will hear further reason for this.
And you shall be satisfied.
Iago has stated to Roderigo that to keep Othello and Desdemona for leaving for Mauritania, they need to remove Cassio from the picture (since he would be the one left in charge). When Roderigo asks why he has to do it, Iago says "I'll show you why he has to die, and you'll be in such agreement that you'll want to be the one to do it."

When we next see them, however?

I have no great devotion to the deed;
And yet he hath given me satisfying reasons:
'Tis but a man gone. Forth, my sword: he dies
I must be missing something, because on this rainy Monday morning that reads almost comically to me - I envision Iago putting his arm around Roderigo, walking off stage saying "Let me explain it to you..." and then 2 seconds later them coming back on stage with Roderigo saying, "Oh, ok, I understand, that makes sense." It's like Shakespeare didn't really have a good answer to that question so he phoned that one in.

What am I missing?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Much Ado Rap


There's lots of projects like this floating around the net, but I like and link this one for a few reasons:

* It comes with an animated video

* It's about Much Ado About Nothing, not R+J or Hamlet or the other most common ones

* It's actually good. :)

They call me Shakespeare and I'mma make clear
When I write its on, my pen is my rapier

Dug for "pen is mightier than the sword" reference, even if that isn't Shakespeare. :)

Ticking Away, The Moments That Make Up A Dull Play

Question for a Friday : Which play spans the longest amount of time on stage? Stories and flashbacky sorts of things about what once happened don't count, I mean "In Act 1 scene 1 the time is X, and in Act 5 the time is X + a whole bunch." Does Winter's Tale win, where Time "slides o'er sixteen years"?

On the flip side, which play takes the shortest amount of time? Doesn't The Tempest span just as couple of hours, from the time of the shipwreck to the time of reuniting?

Answers Needed!

So it only took a day for the search engines to spot my new site, Shakespeare Answers. People are doing exactly what I expected, they're searching for questions and they want answers. For those folks out there who've been helping me generate content by answering questions, here's the list of questions that people have searched, that have landed them on my page. If you get a moment and are looking for an excuse to write some stuff, can I beg you to add your two cents on these? The more content on the page, the more engaged our google visitors will become.

Here they are. It's an interesting mix!

Thanks to everyone who is contributing!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

What Exactly is Romeo's Plan?

While answering questions over at the new place, I found an angle on the big fight scene in Act 3. What, exactly, do you think is Romeo's plan? I realize that he wants to prevent the fight - but more specifically, is he trying to keep Mercutio from hurting Tybalt? Tybalt from hurting Mercutio? Does he even think that far?

It's probably unanswerable, but that's never stopped us. I think it makes for an interesting take on the character, because if he thinks "I need to hold back Mercutio before he kills Tybalt," well then he's basically just sold out his best friend, hasn't he? It could be, of course, that Romeo simply went for the logical person - Tybalt was trying to kill *him* (Romeo) after all, and if Romeo suddenly stepped in from of Tybalt's sword, that would likely not have ended well.

While we're on the subject, can we talk about exactly what Romeo's mistake is, here? I've always sort of thought of the big moment as "Romeo grabbed Mercutio." But why, is the question. Romeo appears to walk into that fateful encounter thinking "I no longer see the Capulets as my enemy, therefore the Capulets are no threat to me." That's a big lapse in character judgement. Tybalt has never been a threat because he's a Capulet. He's a threat because he's a bad guy. This, ironically, is something that Mercutio knew all along. Mercutio didn't hate Tybalt because Tybalt was a Capulet. Mercutio hated Tybalt because he *is* a good judge of character, and knew that Tybalt was trouble.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Introducing A New Site!

For the longest time I've had this idea. "How old is Romeo?" and many variations on that question are, by far, my most popular search topics. This points to a growing trend - people do not just type keywords into their search engines. They ask questions. Many "answers" sites have sprung up to focus on exactly this trend Yahoo Answers, Wiki Answers, Mahalo Answers, Answers.com ...

Here's the problem, though. All of these communities are general purpose. They all run on that Wikipedia, "the community will take care of itself" model. I disagree that this works for specific topics. What if you ask a Shakespeare question on an answers site where there's not enough Shakespeare expertise? Trust me, I've been there. I hang out on some of these boards. It upset me to see answers that were often low quality, badly explained, and sometimes just plain wrong.

Thus Shakespeare Answers was born. With it I hope to create the #1 destination for answers to Shakespeare questions, from the easy "What happens in Act 4 scene 1 of Hamlet" questions to the more open ended stuff like "Did Gertrude know what Claudius did?" You can ask questions, answer questions and comment, as well as voting on your fellow geeks' efforts.

What's in it for the answerers?

Well, you get to create a profile for yourself, which includes a link to your own site. From there you start building up reputation. Everytime you answer a question and people vote for your answer, you gain some credit. Credit gets you various badges/achievements on the site. If you're at all interested in associating your name and presence on the web with "hey, I know a little something about Shakespeare," then this is about to be a great way to do that.

With a little programming I was able to coax Google to spit out a few thousand Shakespeare questions to get us started. Several blog regulars have already been hard at work getting a headstart on their reputation scores by digging in and answering questions about their favorite plays. There's plenty to choose from. Multiple answers to questions are welcome (and encouraged!), especially when opinion or interpretation come into it.

If you can't find any questions you'd like to answer, don't be shy about adding your own! And yes, you can answer your own question.

What's in it for the askers?

There's competition in this space, no doubt. You can just as easily head off to Yahoo or WikiAnswers with your question. What's the difference? Here, we're creating a community that's entirely about Shakespeare, run by people who deeply and truly care about getting you the best possible answer because they want more Shakespeare in the world and this is one of a myriad ways for them (us!) to do that.

I hope that anyone with a Shakespeare question who ends up on Shakespeare Answers will come away not just with a cut and paste answer that they can drop into their homework. Instead I hope to spark something in people that interests them in the subject, and makes them stick around to learn more.

Everybody, VOTE!

A site like this lives and dies by votes. Who had the best answer to a question? Which questions are the most popular? The only way to know the answer to either of those is for as many people as possible to vote. Don't be shy. There is no limit to the voting (although, of course, logical limits apply - like you can only vote for something once).

I can prime the database with a few thousand questions. But what we really need for success is a few thousand users, and for those users to be voting. This will enable the site to take its own shape. What will be the most popular play, Hamlet or Coriolanus ? What sort of answer will be the most popular - long and encyclopedic, or short and snappy? I can't choose - those will only evolve over time, and with your input.

Questions, Comments?

I'd love to hear people's feedback on this idea. I've had the domain and the database for a long time, and had always hoped to build a site from scratch to my specifications. That wasn't happening. I did however find a framework from bringing such a site up in a hurry. What this means is that, to my eye, it's not exactly what I wanted. I see the rough edges perhaps more than others will. So it's very important to me to hear what people think, and how I can make the site better. I plan to take a backseat on this one - I will not be racing people to the #1 karma spot. I fully expect somebody to earn that honor. What I can do is manipulate the look and feel, and overall functionality of the site.

I'm especially interested in ways to give the site a Shakespeare theme. You'll see little details like requests to "ask thy question." I'm open to more of that. Anywhere you see text that you think could be spun into something a bit more Elizabethan / Shakespearean, tell me tell me. I'd love to hear it.

Most importantly, spread the word! Tweet it, share it on Facebook, take it into your classrooms and have your students post their questions. I know I've got a fair share of teachers here, and I'd love to work *with* you on this one. I very much do not plan to make a "do your homework for you" site, I hope everybody knows me well enough to know that. Have faith, teachers, that if one of your students ends up looking for the answers on a site of mine? They're going to come away with more Shakespeare information than they know what to do with!

Ok, time for me to shut up and let you check out Shakespeare Answers!

Wherefore Art Thou JM?!

Yes, yes, relax, I know what wherefore means. Got your attention though, didn't I?

One of our long time contributors, JM by pseudonym, hasn't been around in a good number of months. His blog, The Shakespeare Place, has gone untouched since January of this year. When fellow BardBlogger Gedaly disappeared on us for a little while, JM was right there with the public plea for him to come back.

So, I'm returning the favor on behalf of our little community. JM, where are you?

Anybody been in touch, and / or know why he may have taken his leave of us for a few months? I know that he's quite active in the Shakespeare world at large, does a great bit of teaching and all that, so it's quite possible that the real world got too busy and the online world suffered for it. Or, the Oxfordians may have gotten him.

Of course he could just be lurking, in which case I hope that cringe-worthy title of this post caught his attention. Wake up, J, and let us know you're still alive!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Review : The Great Night, by Chris Adrian

Imagine, for a moment, an Oberon and Titania who live in modern day San Francisco. Oh, they're still king and queen of the fairies, still magical creatures. But, just like mortals, they have their flaws. They fight, they make up. After one particular fight, Oberon brings Boy to Titania as a peace offering. This is not new, the fairies often snatch young boys from the surrounding neighborhood and bring them to live "under the hill" for a time. Not as equals, of course. As toys. And, when they're bored of their toys, they throw them back.

Something is different about this one, though. This one is not a toy. This boy they treat as a son. Titania deeply loves the boy, an emotion that is also deeply foreign to her (and she does not always like or appreciate it). Sometimes she can not live without him, other times she curses Oberon for ever bringing him to her.

Something else is different about Boy -- he has leukemia. What happens to Titania and Oberon next is some of the saddest fiction I think I've ever read. The author's descriptions of parents inside a hospital cancer ward as so realistic you feel like you're right there with them (and it is not a place you want to be for long). This only stands to reason since Chris Adrian, author of The Great Night, is in real life a pediatric oncologist. So he, however unfortunately, knows all too much about this area.

I'm three paragraphs in, and that's just the premise for the story. I could take a whole novel of that. "Titania and Oberon living in modern day San Francisco. They kidnap a boy, learn what it means to love him and to be parents, and then have to deal with his mortality as leukemia takes him away. Boom. Go." I would buy that book.

But this book is more than that. This book is Adrian's retelling of Shakespeare's entire story, with a few twists. Oberon, after a particularly horrible fight with Titania (who blames him for all of their pain), has left. Titania desperaretly wants him to return and sends her fairy servants out in search of him daily. In this story, though, Puck is not a mischievous sprite - he is an untrustworthy creature who spends his time in chains. Puck is able to convince Titania, in her grief, that he will surely find Oberon if only she unchains him. She does so and we discover what the other fairies already knew - that Puck is a world-eating monster. The rest of the story is spent with the fairies alternately running away, attempting to fight, or basically kissing their fairy behinds goodbye because the end of the world is surely upon them.

Meanwhile, up in the human world, three distraught lovers have become lost in the park. Each has his (or her) own backstory about how love, sex and relationships have gone horribly wrong. It doesn't take long for these mortals to run into the fairies, and they all flee from Puck together.

But wait, there's more! What of Bottom and the mechanicals? Here we get a band of homeless people who have become convinced that the Mayor is solving the city's homeless problem with cannibalism. So, naturally, they decide to stage a musical retelling of Soylent Green, the old science fiction movie about the same topic.

How does it all end? Well, with lots of sex, I'll say that. I don't know if that's a statement that the author's making about Midsummer or about San Francisco, but he certainly doesn't need any double entendres or innuendos to make his point.   

The story is not an exact retelling of Midsummer, and doesn't try to be, as you can see. Ultimately, I found that I liked the Shakespeare bits and didn't care much one way or another for the rest. Like I said, I would have read an entire story of nothing but the backstory about Titania, Oberon and Boy. Or how Puck had come to be captured, I'm sure that would make a good story as well. It's just that, when you start adding characters to Shakespeare, you lose me a bit as your audience. I'm in it for the Shakespeare, and coming at it from the angle of what you do with the Shakespeare. When you take some Shakespeare out and add some of your own creation back in? Well, now you've basically asked me to put the two side by side ... and I'm not sure what modern author would win that battle.

Chris Adrian was named as part of The New Yorker's "20 Under 40" and, as mentioned, is currently in his pediatric hematology/oncology fellowship at UCSF. This is his third novel.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Shakespeare + Opera + Ballet

If you like a bit of ballet or opera with your Shakespeare and you're in the neighborhood, the Royal Opera House in London is staging both Verdi's Macbeth and Kenneth MacMillan's ballet Romeo & Juliet later this month.

Verdi’s Macbeth is always a popular opera, with instantly appealing music and a familiar story taken from Shakespeare’s play. The treacherous and scheming couple at its centre make for wonderful operatic villains – the type of strongly drawn characters that Verdi portrays in his music so well. With Simon Keenlyside making his Royal Opera debut in the title role, and with Antonio Pappano, Music Director of the Royal Opera, conducting the opera, this is a revival with an extra thrill. Macbeth’s ‘dagger’ soliloquy and Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking scene are just two of the play’s famous moments that inspired Verdi to wonderfully inventive and atmospheric music. The heroic Macduff, a chorus of witches and the vivid apparition of the eight kings complete an opera that has the composer at his most theatrical. Phyllida Lloyd’s production, last presented by The Royal Opera in 2006, uses Verdi’s 1865 revision, especially noted for Lady Macbeth’s great aria ‘La luce langue’ and the wonderful Act IV opening chorus, and brings out the dark motivations of the Macbeths and the light of justice for those they wrong.

The Royal Ballet is thrilled to announce that it will perform Kenneth MacMillan's timeless classic Romeo and Juliet at The O2 in June 2011. This will be the first time the world-renowned ballet company has performed in a UK arena and promises to be a ballet spectacle to remember.

A stellar cast of Royal Ballet dancers including Carlos Acosta, Tamara Rojo, Mara Galeazzi, Edward Watson, Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg will dance the roles of the famous star-crossed lovers for four shows, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by the Royal Ballet Music Director, Barry Wordsworth.

Any geeks out there an opera and/or ballet fan, and want to tell us about it? I have to admit I've seen neither ballet nor opera with a Shakespeare twist. I would say "other than the occasional channel surfing past PBS" but as I think back I'm not sure I've even seen that much.

I can, however, tell you about the time a professional wrestler stopped mid match to quote Hamlet's Yorick speech. True story.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

You Are What You Read

Although this article makes the Harry Potter comparison , I'm still very interested in the underlying idea that when you read, you"psychologically become part of their world and take away emotional benefits."

Forget wizards, let's talk Shakespeare. Isn't this describing exactly what we've always known Shakespeare to be great at? We love the Henry V speech because *we* take our own personal motivation from it. We get all deep and existential with Hamlet because hey, it's not like we know any more about the undiscovered country than he did, and we're still just as consumed by it.

A fairly obvious question would be, "Doesn't all fiction do this?" and I suppose the answer is "Yes...to an extent." Sometimes to an extent so small that you don't even notice. It takes a master to build universes. Star Trek, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and yes even Harry Potter. For every "classic" (forgive me for calling Harry Potter a classic already), there are hundreds of knockoffs and wanna-be's that tried to paint an almost identical universe, and came up short.

Monday, May 09, 2011

How Old Was Anne Hathaway?

Whenever I see one of these 51 Facts About William Shakespeare lists, I always give it a quick glance to see if a) anything's just wildly wrong, and/or b) to see if there's anything new and interesting that I didn't know.

I like this list. It does seem to cover mostly standard information - when he was born, died, what his father did for a living, etc..

But #11 was new to me:

Because Anne Hathaway Shakespeare's tombstone states she was 67 when she died in 1623, it is generally believed that she was eight years older than her husband. However, the figures 1 and 7 are easily confused--so she might have been 61, only two years older than William.

Is that true? That this is the only information used to give us Anne's age, and that it is questionable? I've never heard that, and I've heard an awful lot of conjecture about William Shakespeare's marriage. I've yet to hear someone say "Anne was almost 10 years older than Shakespeare.....or, not."

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to the mother of my children my wife Kerry, to my own mom Mary (aka "Nanta") and my mother-in-law Kathy (aka "Gammie"), and all the moms out there! (I realized that if I put a comma between "mother of my children" and "my wife Kerry"

We've done worst mothers, we've done a comprehensive list of all the mothers and we've even done sonnets for Mother's Day. So, what should we cover this year?

Who do you think is the most *interesting* mother character? I'll let you define that how you want. Lady Macbeth, maybe, precisely because there's no child in the play? Gertrude for her complex and sometimes faulty balancing of relationships between what it means to be a mom and to be a wife? Hermione for her loyalty to her crazy jealous husband?

Thursday, May 05, 2011

James Shapiro Picks The Best Shakespeare Biographies

Thanks to Julia from The Browser for this link to their interview with James Shapiro, who we've mentioned once or twice in the past. The author of Contested Will lays out his picks for the 5 best biographies of Shakespeare, with lengthy explanation of why.

I just got the link and have not had time to fully grok the list, but I do recognize the name E K Chambers and I think I even have Nicholl's The Lodger on my Kindle, I'll have to double check. But other than that, I don't recognize a single entry. Love it when I learn stuff!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

ShakesWars : Shakespeare on Star Wars Day

(This post has very little to do with Shakespeare.)

May 4th is commonly known as "Star Wars Day". May the Fourth be with you, get it? Anyway, occasions like this cause a spike in Twitter traffic, and it's always fun to jump in on a meme with some Shakespeare. So BardFilm and I have gotten into the habit of trying to hijack the day's trending topic and turn it Shakespeare. Twitter being what it is, though, it's easy to lose track of them as they scroll off. Thus, for posterity, I'm archiving a bunch of them here. Join in the fun, either here or on Twitter!

"I've got a bad feeling about this." - Macbeth

"Be or be not...there is no question."

"Always two there are, a Rosencrantz and a Guildenstern."

"Mercutio drew first!" Come on, you didn't think I was going to let Star Wars Day go by without a plug, did you? :)

“Wonderful girl. Either I'm going to kill her or I'm beginning to like her.” - Han Benedick

"I think my eyes are getting better. Instead of a big dark blur, I see a big light blur." - Han Gloucester

"Mudhole? Slimy? My home this is! Poor Yoda's a-cold..." - Yoda O'Bedlam

"Kiss me, Kate!" "I'd just as soon kiss a wookie." "I can arrange that!" - Petruchio Solo in "Taming of the Shrew Princess"

"We fail? I find your lack of faith disturbing." -Lady MacVader

"Harry, mah bukee, keel-ee caleya ku kah. Wanta dah moole-rah? Wonkee chee sa crispa con Hotspur?" - Falstaff the Hutt

"Joined the dark side Macbeth has, Mmmm. Lies, deceit, creating mistrust are his ways now."

"Elsinore. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious." - Fortinbras

"Lent me must your ears be, before bury Caesar I can."

"Luke, I am thy father's spirit, doomed for a certain term to walk the night."

"I used to bull's-eye whomp-rats in my T-16 back home; that's not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a church-door."

"Fighting the Battle of Agincourt ain't like dusting crops, boy."

"C3P0: Sir, the possibility of winning the battle of Agincourt is approximately 3,720 to 1. Hal Solo: Never tell me the odds. "

"A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, it was the winter of our discontent."

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Is Shakespeare an Angel?

Just one of those things you'll overhear at my house. In this case it came out of my son, who turns 5 tomorrow, after some logic of his that went, "When you die you go to Heaven. People in Heaven are angels. Shakespeare died, therefore Shakespeare is in Heaven, therefore Shakespeare must be an angel."

Choose Your Own Midsummer?

Six actors have memorized all the roles. YOU choose which part they'll play.

Such is the pitch sent to me by Folding Chair Classical Theatre, which I've included below. This could be interesting. I've been watching a bunch of improv lately, and it sounds to me like a similar sort of thing. "Ok, freeze! We're about to see the entrance of the King and Queen of the fairies. Who should play Oberon? You, sir, blue shirt in the third row, which of these actors should play Oberon?" Although that does make me want to add "And now give me a style of movie he should play it in, style of movie....anyone....film noir! I heard film noir. Ok, Oberon, you enter in the style of film noir." :)

Folding Chair Classical Theatre presents

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM by William Shakespeare

Six actors have memorized all the roles. YOU choose which part they'll play.

Tickets $18 for all performances at www.SmartTix.com or call 212-868-4444

Folding Chair Classical Theatre takes Shakespeare's comedy of magical transformation to hilarious extremes as our highly-trained six-member ensemble takes on all 21 roles in a madcap, fairy-populated, magic-filled slumber party.

But just to keep things interesting, the company will not know which set of roles they will be playing that night until right before curtain time. Each performance promises a different fairy queen in love with different ass-headed weaver, as lovers woo and fairies fight (and some guys just want to rehearse in peace) in all sorts of new combinations, to the stylings of a psyche-funkadelic score. Which casting will you see? We have no idea.

Director Marcus Geduld and Folding Chair Classical Theatre return to Shakespeare with the small-cast, big-adventure aesthetic they brought to acclaimed productions of “Pericles,” “Cymbeline,” “Much Ado About Nothing” and “The Winter's Tale”. Join us for the magic!

Performances May 5-June 4, Thurs.-Sat. at 8PM, Sun at 2PM.Extra performance June 4 at 2PM.No performance May 8, 27, 28, or 29.At Access Theatre, 380 Broadway between Walker and White Street.

Tickets only $18. Click here to order or call 212-868-4444

Let's Do It

...Let's Fall In Love

I want to get back to something for a minute. Lost in the shuffle of last week's Shakespeare Day celebrations was a new effort by our own BardFilm (aka KJ), where he rewrote Cole Porter's "Let's Do It (Let's Fall In Love)" using all of Shakespeare's favorite couples (and then some!) Not only did KJ write this, he sings it as well, and put together a video. It's over 8 minutes long!

That is no small effort, and I wanted to make sure that everybody did get a chance to see it. You may not have a chance to watch the *whole* thing, I mean come on KJ, some of us have day jobs :) ... but you can always bookmark it and tell yourself you'll watch it later.

Go watch! I'm deliberately not embedding the YouTube video because it's only fair that he should get the traffic.

Nice work, K. It is appreciated!

Wordles, Wordles, Wordles

We've mentioned Wordle, the engine that turns any stream of text into an artistic tag cloud, a few times in the past. And people have been throwing Shakespeare at it for as long as it's been around.

But for the geeky among us, C. Laprade over at In The Web Of It went a different way. He put Hamlet in - in all its different forms. Q1, Q2, F1. And then he compared the clouds. Before you look, what would you find more interesting - their similarities, or their differences? Or are they all just slices of the one whole that is Hamlet?

Reminds me a bit a project of my own :)

UPDATE: I had an idea, and made one of my own for King Lear. Here I took just the lines of spoken text - no stage directions, and no speaking characters' names. So if somebody said "Hey Cordelia!" that would be included, but her response would just be "What?" rather than "CORDELIA What?" See what I mean? So it gets rid of the syntax that artificially inflates whoever has the most spoken lines.

See anything interesting? I like that "father" and "know" pop out so clearly, and if you look to the left you'll see "daughter" right there as well.

Subway Shakespeare

I'm sure we've talked about projects like this before, and here it's come around again : Subway Shakespeare. In this article, two twenty-somethings entertain a carload of passengers with the final scene from Romeo and Juliet. I like that they are interviewed right there in the subway.

What do you think? I'm torn - I think that at first I'd be fascinated to recognize what's going on, just like I am when I hear one of my kids' cartoons suddenly quote Henry V. But if I was a regular? And they did it every morning? And I had work to do? It might get a little stale. And what if they're not really any good?

Anybody ever seen Shakespeare in the wild like this?